The Berlin mayor and council’s decision this week to apply its annual share of Ocean Downs’ gambling money to a Law Enforcement Officer Pension System should not generate much argument from anyone.
It’s not controversial and there’s no reason why the county’s Local Development Council (LDC) should do anything other than endorse it when the time comes.
The LDC, a public body that came into existence when gambling became legal in Maryland 16 years ago, is an advisory body that helps recipients of gambling impact grants develop plans for their use. It doesn’t tell them what to do. It can recommend or oppose a plan and require a public hearing on it, but it can’t reject it out of hand.
All the state law says is that recipients should “make their best effort” to abide by the LDC’s recommendations. In other words, the LDC can strongly encourage Berlin to conduct a study of how the grant money would be applied to a pension system, but it can’t force them to do it … not that any town, county or other jurisdiction ever produced a study that didn’t support its position.
Besides, the town’s desire to use its share of the gambling proceeds to improve its ability to retain quality police officers certainly falls directly into the wide open “Public Safety” category the 2007 gambling law established as one of the areas where the money could be applied.
Of course, arguments can be made for and against how these impact grants should be handled because of a law that’s short on specifics in some areas. Its authors purposely wrote it that way so it would pass legislature and earn the support of certain anti-gambling jurisdictions — Ocean City being a major one — by giving them a cut of the take and lots of latitude on how to use it.
The bottom line is that this impact grant belongs to Berlin and it should be able to spend it however it wants within the approved categories. A hearing should be required, but a study? That would be a waste of time and money.